The group spent the day looking for wildlife around the town on July 11th 2010. This was a pilot to see what potential there was for the full wildlife surveys taking place next week.
Rhayader has great potential for ‘urban’ wildlife – because of its location in the wider environment – alongside the river Wye and surrounded by a wide variety of mixed habitat. Nowhere in the town is far from open countryside.
The group met at the car park in Gasworks Lane and headed north into the park. There are several nice patches of rough ground adjacent to the river Wye here – untouched by mowers. Birds here included spotted flycatcher and blackcap as well as a constantly singing chiff-chaff. Butterflies included ringlet and large white. We then turned up slope towards the town. The rest of the park here is well clipped and practically devoid of wildlife interest. A few mole-hills and a small colony of hill ants were the only signs of life.
As the path got to the rear of the Eagles pub, we looked at a nice patch of rough ground containing rosebay willowherb and greater celandine amongst other plants. House sparrows were evident here – with 6 or so around. A nest was found in the archway adjacent to the pub. House sparrow was widespread around the town generally – more so than anticipated. The age and condition of many of the town centre dwellings seems to suit the birds.
The church provided further interest, with wall-rue (fern) growing in the wall along with several yew seedlings. We then walked up Dark Lane towards Maes y Brenin. Greenfinches became evident on this stretch – usually associating with leylandii or scots pine. It is noteworthy how many mature oaks are found along this stretch. The first of 3 pairs of collared dove were found at the Crossfield nursing home – observed carrying nesting material behind the homes satellite dish!
A few red kite were observed overhead with buzzard and swift. A few siskin were added to the list – taking advantage of bird feeders in the gardens. Low flying swifts attracted attention at Maes Y Brenin and we soon saw why. Birds were seen to fly into holes in the fascia on the tallest block – a newly discovered breeding site for these birds in the town. Notably, this taller building had poor conditioned fascia – doubtless due to the difficulty in accessing the higher roofline for maintenance. The swifts had taken full advantage.
Starlings were also noted in the area – it would be interesting to see if these birds still breed in the town. We cut back on to East Street here andwalked back in to town. So far house martins had been seen high overhead – but no nests located. Indeed it seems like most of the birds nesting attempts are discouraged by home owners. One house even had black bin liners draped across the eaves to prevent the birds nesting. Again it was the taller buildings in the town centre that provided the opportunity. Beyond the reach of ladder these birds seem more successful.
West street is the home to good numbers of house martin and swift. One of the latter seen taking nesting material into the roof of the Arches (opposite Spar) on this late date. This seems to be the number one colony but it was observed that there could be another down towards Caeherbert Lane somewhere. We left pondering whether the western half of town was more popular with swifts and house martins due to its proximity to the Wye.
A lot was seen in a short space of time, so it seems well worth another more detailed visit next year.